Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Beautiful moments

It's about 8 years since I discovered Antony Hegarty's voice. This live version of "You Are My Sister" surpasses his recording as a duet with Boy George.

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A quiet evening in.

Munson has been part of the family for 3 months now. He's tripled in size in that time (5mo old) and is incredibly sweet although given to a bit of back-chat with Bondi.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A little more discretion and common sense

Last week I made a formal complaint to the Sydney Opera House about their overbearing & unpublished policy of banning dogs from the Bennelong Point precinct.

Today I received a reply from Richard  Hull, Customer Service Manager:

Thank you for your email regarding dogs on Bennelong Point.
I actually think you make a very good point.
While the security officer was perfectly correct in his actions - there is a current bylaw prohibiting dogs (or any animal) on the Opera House site, unless they are 'assistance' dogs - I believe we can review the way in which this rule is implemented.
It is entirely valid to prohibit animals when we have special events and large crowds on the forecourt and this will continue to be the case. However, it seems less relevant given your circumstances of walking well behaved dogs on a leash around the northern broadwalks.
Please be assured that I will discuss your comments and concerns with our executive today and see if we can approach this issue with a little more discretion and common sense in the future.
Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.
Kind regards
Richard Hull


It's nice to get a reply that addresses some of the substance of a complaint (unlike a long letter I recently sent to my State member of parliament, Carmel Tebbutt*).

I still query his "It is entirely valid..." comment as there is usually a seamless group of people from the area adjacent such as Circular quay and The Rocks, and there is no issue with "large crowds" elsewhere in Sydney public areas.  As long as security guards rather than police are in charge then I fear that the attitude will be skewed unnecessarily. As I have noted before, in my wide experience, security guards exaggerate any perceived threats, whereas police have more common sense and are on the lookout for real issues.

* There is a long and tedious tradition in Australia of padding out debates, speeches and other verbal correspondence with entirely context-free dictionary definitions. Each time I have written to a NSW member of parliament on an issue, the reply usually comes back like a 4th-grade report copy-pasted from a website. On top of that the usual response is to state that the matter I am complaining about is forbidden because "it's against the law". Well thank you for that clarification.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree … K-I-S-S-I-N-G

20080919 Sydney Park kookaburras

An unexpected pleasure – courting kookaburras in Sydney Park.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Surf hounds


There's a small stretch of sandy beach near Sydney Airport – accessible to dogs if you know how to reach it:

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- If you're not careful you'll end up on the M5 motorway and thus whisked off to the other end of the universe :-P.

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Earlier I'd taken the boys down to Blackwattle Bay for a quick run, and Munson tried to walk out across the water of the canal, plunging like Wile E Coyote off a cliff edge. Poor pup had only entered the water from shoreline before and didn't realise the potential hazard of instant deep water.

Since he was now quite wet and the day was warming up, this airport-side beach was a good choice for him to test out his water wings further with some gentle waves.

Munson IMG_0267 Bondi - not quite a frozen lake

Monday, September 15, 2008

Coast path from Bronte to Bondi

Bondi Beach Stitch [Canon]

There’s a coast path winding from Bondi Beach’s north end (Ben Bucker, seen above) -  past Tamarama and Bronte Beaches, and thence to Coogee and Maroubra. Despite being a track of outstanding beauty, it's split between several local government jurisdictions and as such doesn’t have any coherent management. It’s a bit having the Italian Cinque Terre walk split up into five separately advertised and managed sections which don’t acknowledge any of the connecting bits.

If you want to walk your dog, the rules are spellbindingly confusing, depending which sign or website you look at, and the time of year. The signs are comprehensive in an Old Testament “thou shalt not” fashion peculiar to Australian municipal managers. Basically, the widest, safest parts of the walk, along the concrete beach promenades are forbidden to dogs except after dark. Go figure.

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Anyway, today was a fine day to introduce Munson to a path I’ve taken with Bondi several times before (albeit with lengthy circumlocutions of stretches of pavement sacred to town clerks).

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I set out with the two lads and Ghaith just before lunch, beginning at Bronte Beach, and ending up at Hunter Park, sited at the southern end of Bondi Beach. IIRC the video for Elton John’s song Blue Eyes was filmed around here.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Flippin' maps

I'm not alone in having a great weakness for maps and street directories, and I often wish I had tools to perform "comparative cartography" so I could see relative sizes and positions of various geographic entities. (See my Sicilian exercise here). From idle atlas comparisons long ago I noted some time ago that Hobart (42° 54' S) sits at roughly the same latitude as Rome (41° 52' N), with most of Australia sitting in the North Africa - Afghanistan - Mexico belt

I've played around with some form of the Map Tunnelling Tool before, but this time I've done some quick paintshopping to show where Australia would lie if it were flipped into the Northern Hemisphere so that every point was at its antipodean point. The + marker shows the locations of Sydney. New Zealand would partially lie over portions of Spain and Portugal.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

3 Sydney Walks

After days of rain and a lingering scent of wet under-exercised fur around the house, today's sunshine was an incredible relief. First stop was Cremorne Point on Sydney's "Lower North Shore" from whence I commuted to the "upper south shore" for a period c.1987

Slightly underwhelming fish+chips lunch at Balmoral Beach, thankfully not overcrowded and parking possible within 5 minutes walk of the waterfront. One guy was very keen to find out names of breeders to obtain one. I suggested he try the RSPCA pound, as mals are sadly one of the most dumped breeds in Australia. A few weeks ago I was commended by an RSPCA worker who spotted my troupe at Glebe markets; she said she didn't often see them loved or treated well by owners here and said that a large litter had just been turned into "death row" that morning. While pet stores are still allowed to sell (very rapidly growing) mammals over the counter here without any vetting, owners who grow bored of the effort to raise their dogs simply abandon any attempt to train them and send these magnificent, intelligent creatures off to the pound.

A meander around Neutral Bay shops on the way back, garnering a free espresso at a coffee shop where the staff couldn't figure out how to rethread a cash-register roll and thus gain access to the cash tray. I showed them the miraculous manual trip switch on the base and voila! the drawer shot out. I felt even more virtuous when a couple dining outdoors commended me on the demeanour and appearance of my two young charges.

A much more amusing reaction was noted a few weeks earlier on King St in Newtown. A woman pushing her 3yr-old along in a pram, was so surprised by the sight of B&M that she crashed the pram into the front of a shop and her rather eloquent but goggle-eyed son cried out "FUUUUCK! ... THAT's a big dog!".

Less pleasing was my experience last Sunday when walking the two along the Sydney city waterfront from Hickson Road, through the Rocks, along Circular Quay and around Bennelong Point. I was taking the time to explain some of the history of the area to my companion (eg the markers showing the 1788 shoreline, and the Writers Walk plaques). All was going magically until we were about 100m from the Opera House, and a security guard came trotting over to say that dogs were not allowed anywhere near the place (in fact not past the Macquarie St roundabout) for nebulous "health and safety" reasons. I wondered what was so magically different about this area that nice (leashed) dogs were such a threat to all - but I put it down partly to relentlessness nannyism of civic authorities here, and the universal penchant for security guards to justify their keep by keeping the ambient threat level high (unlike police or militia who want the reverse). How different to walking down London's Pall Mall (where there are genuine security issues) and being welcomed by the Town Crier of London).

I noticed this plaque for Anthony Trollope with an quotation whose experience you could read as having reversed since 1873.

Final stop was the Glebe eastern harbour shoreline, the walkway at the other end of the Blackwattle Bay excursion we tried two weeks earlier.

Hang it all

With thousands upon thousands of photos from the European expedition, I've been struggling a bit with which ones to throw up on the walls around my home. I may be the only person around with a facsimile triptych of their blog banner over the lounge, but there are a few other bits and pieces around now.

I've been toying with some collages, and I'm pleased to see that the new Picasa 3 adds some really nifty new presentation means (which I've been playing with in the last bout of blog posts). Below is a draft of a collage of our Europe Spring 2007 tour, with one picture for each of the 104 days Bondi and I spent breezing through 20 countries, and of some other collected favourites.

I've also been experimenting with the trial version of the AutoCollage program from Microsoft Research Cambridge. Unfortunately Microsoft has not worked out to make it available to people outside the US or EU due to a resounding ignorance of how credit cards might work. It's intriguing but the cost is very high for a trial program (Picasa is free and does much more).

Monday, September 01, 2008

News from Hügevania

It's 17 years to the day since the Ren & Stimpy episode The Littlest Giant first aired, but the poor people of Thumbsville didn't dream that they might meet a hugenormous puppy like Munson who would reach 26.5kg (that's 58lb in Hügevanian money) at 19 weeks. He's maintaining a 1.5kg/week growth rate, which puts him in line to hit Bondi's weight (62kg) by Feb, my weight by August, and gain ratification by the International Astronomical Union as a minor planet not long thereafter.